Court of Appeals rules: Reopen case for Lot 937
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Court of Appeal Special Eighteenth Division has granted the appeal of the Solicitor General, which represents the Republic of the Philippines in court, for the reopening of the case of the ownership of Lot 937 in Barangay Apas, Cebu City.
The Solicitor General filed a Complaint for the Cancellation of the Reconstituted Transfer of Certificate Title (TCT) on February 8, 2013 against a certain Mariano Godinez, who claimed ownership of the lot in 1954 through Reconstituted TCT filed in the Court of First Instance in Cebu, which the court granted.
This despite the lot having been expropriated by the Philippine Commonwealth in 1939, and now under the possession of the Department of National Defense (DND).
This complaint was junked by the Regional Trial Court, 7th Judicial Region (RTC-7), Branch 12 in Cebu City on March 15, 2015, which favored Godinez on grounds of violation of the rule against forum shopping, res judicata, estoppel or conclusive judgement, lack of jurisdiction of action, prescription, and laches.
Five years after that decision, the Court of Appeals has granted the appeal of the Solicitor General to reopen the case and reverse the decision of the lower court.
In an order promulgated on March 20, 2020, Associate Justice Carlito Calpatura, favored the State’s request, hereby allowing the Complaint for the Cancellation of the Reconstituted TCT to be tackled once more in the RTC Branch-7.
“In the case at bar, while it may seem easy to take refuge under the immutability of prior judgement doctrine, by doing so, this Court loses sight of what is truly at the heart of this case, equity. More specifically, is it equitable for petioner-appelant Republic to be denied the right to be heard, without the benefit of trial on the merits, especially when the priniciple issue at hand involves the validity and integrity of a Torrens certificate of title to property?”
“In order to serve the demands of substantial justice and in the exercise of our equity jurisdiction, this Court is compelled to answer in favor of petitioner-appellant,” ruled the Court of Appeals.
Furthermore, the Court of Appeals said the case should be reopened because the grounds on res judicata or a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court, may not be applicable in this case and jurisprudence provides that there are some exemptions to res judicata.
The Court of Appeals also ruled that the validity of the reconstituted title was not properly addressed in the civil case for reinvindicatory actions, and that estoppel does not lie against the State and it cannot be bound by the negligence of its agents.
The promulgated ruling of the appellate court was welcomed by the residents of Lot 937, who have been fighting to keep their homes since 2010, when the camp of Godinez tried to reclaim the property through getting a court-order for demolition.
“The Court of Appeals has Granted the SolGen’s Petition and the case will now Re.Open. Full blown Trial na jud. The Validity of the Reconstituted title will now be tackled. Due process is on the way!” said the residents in their Saving Lot 937 Facebook page.
There are at least 200 families or at least 1000 individuals living in the lot at present.
The camp of Godinez has yet to release a statement of the development of the case. /bmjo
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